Dear Dan Advice Column

“Dear Dan, I've been struggling believing in what I was taught my whole life, which is that heaven and hell exist. Do you believe in an afterlife, and why?”

ASKED BY: ANONYMOUS

DAN’S ANSWER: This is certainly a loaded question, mad props. It’s also an important one for every person to answer for themselves. After all, if you get it wrong you could be BURNING IN HELL FOR ALL OF ETERNITY!!!

Or not.

Guaranteed my answer will rub a lot of people raw (no matter what my answer is), which is why I chose to answer this question. It’s fun to poke people in the gut a bit. It makes for awesome discussion. Just do me a favor and be civil if you’re going to discuss it.

As for me, and what I believe, I can only tell you that I am almost 40-years-old and the older I get, the less I believe I can actually know anything at all.

I’m truly agnostic. To some, agnosticism is a cop-out belief. It’s non-committal. It’s the wussy answer to the hardest question ever asked.

To me, being agnostic and (being serious about it) is so much more than that.

I don’t believe you can prove God or an afterlife exists any more than the person next to you can prove that God or an afterlife doesn’t exist.

I think there is endless evidence that creationism could exist, and therefore an afterlife might also exist with it.

I think there is also endless evidence in science that creationism is silly nonsense that has been propagated into the minds of the masses ever since humans could think rational thought.

I think that, to me, there is one question which atheists cannot truly answer, and that is this… Why does anything exist at all?

I also think that, to me, there is one question that believers of God and the afterlife cannot truly answer, and that is this… How did a God come to exist at all?

There is no true answer for either of those things. The fact that anything exists at all is an anomaly no person can ever explain.

That belief, to me, is serious agnosticism. I simply believe that all possibilities could exist and that nobody can fully prove anything one way or the other.

Your question, however, was specifically about the afterlife, so let me just say this about it…

Personally, I do not believe in heaven and hell. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

For a place of eternal happiness and elation to exist, there would have to be suffering. After all, you cannot feel joy without knowing hurt.

And for a place of eternal punishment to exist, there would have to be beauty and goodness. After all, you cannot feel pain and hurt without knowing joy and happiness.

Because of that, the idea of heaven and the idea of hell are two paradoxes to me.

What do I think happens after we die?

I honestly have no idea and I will never pretend that I do.

My sister died some time back. She was an excellent and awesome human who brightened up the lives of everyone around her.

I’ve been to the funeral of more friends than I care to think about.

I’ve lost aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Death is the final act of life, and none of us get to escape it.

I like thinking that I’ll get to see my sister and friends someday. I like the thought that my son and I won’t part ways for eternity as soon as we part earthly ways. I also can only say “that would be nice if it happens,” but I never can preach it as some truth that I somehow know.

And…

At the same time that it’s a beautiful thought to see the people I love again, it’s also actually a really beautiful thought (to me) to just disappear into the great abyss and never think another thought. Personally, my brain is a lot of work to keep up with, and I wouldn’t mind at all if I disappeared into mental oblivion after this life is over.

All that being said, I do know of a few ways in which a particular type of afterlife is certain.

  1. Our deeds will live long after we do, whether they were good or bad. The trickle effects of everything we do will last for eternity.
  2. People’s memories will live long after we do, whether they were positive or negative. Every action and reaction that they have in their lives will be influenced, at least somewhat, by their memories of us.
  3. The things that we create and leave behind will live as long those creations remain available to others.

Whether I disappear into nothingness or I am transported to some new life and new world, it does not matter to me.

What matters to me is whether I do true good in this world and if I am remembered for the goodness of what I created. If everything I do has a ripple effect for eternity, and if my memories will live on and affect the actions of others for eternity, and the things I create have the potential to live on for eternity, then I just have to believe that doing my best to be a good and decent and giving person in this world will lead me or my legacy to the right place.

If there is an afterlife with judgment of some sort, I’ll be set. If there isn’t an afterlife, I’ll be okay with how I left my mark on the world.

What I find to be a waste of time is worrying obsessively about the existence of an afterlife. Do your best. Be your best. The rest will take care of itself.

Those are my personal thoughts on the afterlife, and I’m sure they’ll adjust and change with time as they always have. That’s the nature of curiosity as it evolves with the unknowable.

Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog

~ Dan Pearce | Single Dad Laughing

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